Opera in three acts
Libretto by Alfred Maria Willner after William
Shakespeare’s A Winter’s Tale
Sung in German with English surtitles
First performance 2 January 1908, Vienna State Opera
Some Shakespeare plays have been set as operas several dozens of times, others hardly at all. A Winter’s Tale features somewhere in the middle popularity-wise, without having inspired any of the most famous Shakespearean operas – which makes Karl Goldmark’s Ein Wintermärchen all the more intriguing. Composers came to A Winter’s Tale relatively late, with the first adaptation being that of Carlo Emanuele Barbieri’s Perdita, oder Ein Wintermärchen, premiered in Leipzig in 1865. Max Bruch’s version (Hermione) followed a few years later.
Premiered at the Hofoper in Vienna in 1908, Ein Wintermärchen would prove to be the last of the six operas composed by Goldmark (1830–1915). Frustratingly for him, his first opera would always remain his most famous: Die Köningen von Saba (The Queen of Sheba) brought huge personal success at its premiere in 1875, and its subject matter gave Goldmark scope to display what was considered to be his greatest strength as a magician of orchestration; contemporaries raved about the ‘burning scarlet gleam’ and ‘sensuous iridescence’ of his music. The librettist of Ein Wintermärchen was Alfred Maria Willner, one of the most prolific Viennese wordsmiths of the day. It was his first collaboration with Goldmark, on Das Heimchen am Herd, that set Willner on his path to producing over 50 libretti, including several for Lehár.
Born Károly Goldmark, the son of a Jewish cantor, the composer grew up in today’s Austrian region of Burgenland – actually not all that far from Shakespeare’s ‘coast of Bohemia’ – but is still most commonly identified as a Hungarian composer. He never learned to speak Hungarian and allied himself most closely of all with German culture, but did sometimes incorporate Hungarian themes in his music. Described by contemporaries as modest and shy, Goldmark did little to promote himself, and his work and his music suffered the twin fates of falling out of fashion soon after his death and then being branded as ‘degenerate’ by the Nazis. From the 1950s onwards his name was kept alive principally through his Violin Concerto No. 1, recorded by many great names, and his music is now enjoying something of a wider reappraisal.
Previously at WFO: Rusalka (Dargomïzhsky, 1997), Opera Scenes (La bohème, Queen of Spades, Eugene Onegin, 1997).
Previous Engagements: Director (The Demon, Rubinstein, Opéra de Bordeaux; Eugene Onegin, Tchaikovsky, New National Theatre – Tokyo; La traviata, Verdi, Helikon-Opera – Moscow).
Forthcoming Engagements: Director (Andrea Chénier, Giordano, Oper am Rhein Düsseldorf; Queen of Spades, Tchaikovsky, Royal Swedish Opera; Alfa and Omega, Gil Shohat, Helikon-Opera – Moscow).
Previous Engagements: Costume Designer (Hamlet, Brett Dean, Opera Cologne), Set & Costume Designer (Jungle Book, Rick Miller/Craig Francis, Kidoons Inc.; Otello, Verdi, Norrlands Opera – Sweden).
Forthcoming Engagements: Costume Designer (The Cold War, Michael Hollingsworth, Videocabaret).
Previous Engagements: Choreographer (Eugene Onegin, Tchaikovsky, Nationa Opera – Tokyo; Turandot, Puccini, Theater Helicon Opera – Moscow; The Demon, Rubinstein, Liceu Opera – Barcelona).
Forthcoming Engagements: Choreographer (Suor Angelica, Puccini, Birgitta Festival – Tallinn; The Demon, Rubinstein, Staatstheater Nürnberg; Andrea Chenier, Giordano, Rein Opera – Düsseldorf).
Previously at WFO: Matilde (Maria de Rudenz, 2016).
Previous Engagements: Mathilde (Guillaume Tell, Rossini, Tiroler Festspiele Erl), Elettra (Idomeneo, Mozart, Teatro Sao Carlos – Lisbon), Violetta (La traviata, Verdi, Tbilisi State Opera).
Forthcoming Engagements: Alcina (Alcina, Handel, Pfalztheater Kaiserslautern), Soprano (Symphony no 9, Beethoven, Teatro Degollado, Guadalajara, Mexico).
Previous Engagements: Gretel (Hansel and Gretel, Humperdinck, Michigan Opera Theatre), Drusilla (L’incoronazione di Poppea, Monteverdi, Opernhaus Zürich), Isolier (Le comte Ory, Rossini, Opéra de Monte-Carlo).
Forthcoming Engagements: Claude (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Gene Scheer/Joby Talbot, Dallas Opera), Pittura and Bradamante (Il palazzo incantato, Rossi, Opéra de Dijon).